December 10, 2019
Flying over the Mitsuishi Rocks along the Manazuru Coast in Kanagawa with the DJI Mavic Mini.
The first time one picks up the DJI Mavic Mini they’re likely to do a double take - it’s crazy how light and insubstantial it feels in hand.
We also own a full sized Mavic Pro and have often thought about selling it due to how unwieldy it is to carry anywhere. Not only is the drone itself large and heavy at nearly a kilogram, but it also requires the (heavy) remote, extra (heavy and large) Mavic Pro Batteries and most annoyingly - the gigantic and heavy proprietary charging cable. Such a profilgate waste of space and weight for an ultra-specialised tool liable to be used only once per trip at most is anathema to carry-on-only/one-bag travelers such as ourselves, and so more often than not the Mavic Pro stays collecting dust on our shelves.
The Mavic Mini though - that’s another story. The best part beyond the incredibly tiny size and weight is that the accessories (remotes, batteries) are also small, and that it supports in body charging with a standard micro-USB cable - meaning no heavy proprietary charger required. It’s truly the first drone lightweight travelers or photographers can throw in their bag without regret, and take with them on almost any trip - as they say, the best camera (or drone) is the one you have on you.1
There’s some downsides to such a tiny drone however - besides the fragility, it shoots only in JPG2, has an argubly inferior transmission system3 and can struggle in high winds. The latter in particular is what we were concerned about - would it be unable to return home in face of strong prevailing winds?
The Manazuru coast in winter is strongly buffeted by freezing cold winds and the “high wind” warning came on almost immediately as we flew out over the ocean. Despite this, and the drone rocking back and forth at times, it still managed to redeem itself admirably although the battery life was shortened even more than expected - just under 15 minutes of flight time before it was time to head back with 20% emergency reserve left on the battery as it struggled to fight the headwinds and stay on course. However, dropping to a lower altitude helped lessen the burden and everything worked out fine in the end.
So, definitely a sound purchase and probably means it’s time to finally sell our Mavic Pro.
One final interesting twist is that our version - purchased in Japan - weighs only 199 grams, a full 50 grams lighter than the rest of the world due to a special Japan-only ultra light weight model. There’s some downsides - the drone feels even lighter and more delicate in hand than the Rest Of World (ROW) model, and the batteries get only around 20 minutes of battery life versus the 30 for ROW models. Additionally, it means ROW model batteries are not compatible with the JP release and as of early December, there is zero stock across the country for spare batteries, so for those who were not lucky enough to snag one of the very few fly more combos that were available, they’re basically limted to one single 20 minute flight at a time until more inventory comes in, most likely in early 2020. ↩
Of course RAW is preferred but as the theme of this site goes, “good enough is good enough” and looking at the photos we got, we’re happy enough for now. Also, the RAW files of the Mavic Pro (first generation) don’t have that much latitude to begin with so it’s not like we’re losing much… ↩
General consensus is that it should pose no problems in the wilderness, but will struggle in densely populated urban areas. One shouldn’t be flying a drone in densely-crowded urban areas so that is no problem from our perspective and in our (limited) testing to date out in unpopulated areas we didn’t experience any issues. ↩
December 01, 2019
The frozen view from near the peak of Jungfrau, at the top of Europe.
November 24, 2019
Gazing upon the north face of Mount Eiger soaring over Grindelwald, Switzerland.
Shot with and edited entirely on the iPhone 11 Pro save the single exception indicated above.
“Good Enough is Good Enough…”
November 12, 2019
Watching the sun set over Zürich Old Town….
We didn’t bring much camera equipment1 with us for this trip so we’ve been shooting with our phone a lot. Editing on the phone is enjoyable in its immediacy as well as embrace of “good enough is good enough” ethos, but remains unavoidably unrefined in many others - the need for multiple copies of lossy, camera-roll-polluting jpeg intermediaries as one round trips through various apps is one primary annoyance.
From left-to-right, top-to-bottom:
- Original shot from iPhone 14mm ultra-wide back camera
- Original base edits + colouration via Priime
- Correcting perspective skew + distortion via Skrwt
- Split toning, local adjustments + grain via LR Mobile
- (Not pictured) Crop to 1:1 aspect ratio via built in iOS editing tool
The final (uncropped) result:
Our routing from Tokyo took us through Vienna, which meant a short but unavoidable intra-european segment on Austrian Airlines which has a fearsome reputation for strictly keeping to an 8kg weight limit for the single carry on. We’re quite experienced “one bag travelers” so the single carry-on wasn’t a challenge, but the weight limit was - a Sony A7rIV + 12-105 f/4 G weighs 1.3 kgs alone, which when you add in the weight of the bag (Belroy Transit Pack (1.1kg) and computer (12” Macbook 920 grams)2 doesn’t leave much extra room, especially if one wants to nip up to the mountains in the winter and needs some warmer clothes. Something had to give, hence the smaller camera. ↩
We’re sad the 12” Macbook is no longer manufactured - it still has a place for ultra-light 1-bag travel where the (admittedly awesome) iPad Pro (even with iPad OS) still can’t quite cut it, but the full power of a larger macbook is not warranted. We’re going to hold on to ours until the day it dies. ↩
October 31, 2019
Brilliant blue skies and dramatic clouds over the Tokyo Tocho Towers in downtown Shinjuku…
October 29, 2019
October 26, 2019
Starting from MacOS Mojave, Apple has ported over one of the more irritating features from recent iOS releases - the thumbnail that appears in the bottom corner of the screen when taking a screenshot.
Ostensibly this feature is there to enable one to easily find the screenshot1 and presumably further edit or mark it up with the useless built-in tools before saving. In reality however, for many people (such as ourselves) who take dozens of screenshots a day with the intent of immediately using it the several-second delay incurred before the screenshot actually “appears” on the desktop (so it can be dragged into an email or selected with a file finder) is absolutely infuriating.
5 seconds x 24+ screenshots a day x the interruption in the workflow x 365 days a year… the feature might be useful to some users out there, but for the rest of us, it’s frustrating that it was made the default behaviour.2
Fortunately, this feature can be turned off, although the affordance to do so is frustratingly buried, like many other things in Apple software these days (see for example the user-hostile overloading of the ‘reply all’ button in iOS 13 or the frustratingly-difficult-to-use action sheet ‘improvements’, also in iOS 13).
To banish this useless bit of productivity-destroying behaviour from your life, trigger the full-option screenshot interface via
cmd+shift+5, then click on the
option menu and toggle off
Show floating thumbnail.
Close out the interface and then go on to reclaim your lost time and productivity.
Was it really that hard to find the screenshot before? It saves to your desktop automatically… maybe this is aimed at those terrible souls3 who treat their desktop like a wastebasket with years of accumulated cruft and files piled up every which way? ↩
Part of the overall “dumbing down” (counter-point: increasing the accessibility to lay consumers) of OS X and Apple software overall, perhaps. ↩
You know who you are. shudder ↩
October 21, 2019
Those bright Tokyo technicolour skies…